by Phillip Manning ~ July 3rd, 2013
On Friday, June 28th, KTNA reported that the contract of Dr. Mary Loeb, Medical Director at the Sunshine Community Health Center, had not been renewed. Since then, many members of the public have expressed concerns regarding the circumstances of Dr. Loeb’s dismissal and the impact that her absence will have on the services provided by the Sunshine and Willow clinics.
On June 25th, when rumors were circulating but no official decision had been made, additional space had to be arranged in the small conference room where the clinic Board of Directors meeting was held to accommodate staff from the Willow and Sunshine clinics. The staff members appealed, sometimes tearfully, for Dr. Loeb’s contract to be renewed. On July 1st, community members spoke at the Talkeetna Community Council meeting concerning the decision not to renew Dr. Loeb’s contract, and nearly thirty residents have signed a letter that calls on the clinic’s Board of Directors to hold a special meeting to discuss the possible effect on clinic services as well address what the letter describes as a “deep level of distrust about current clinic management.” The Talkeetna Community Council voted to support the effort to call for a special meeting, and is composing its own letter to the Board of Directors.
David Bryant, Executive Director of the Sunshine Community Health Center, says that he does not anticipate a loss of availability of services to the community. He says that any licensed physician is permitted to oversee the dispensary with the exception of controlled substances. He anticipates it could take four to six weeks for the clinic to be able to dispense controlled substances again, but that they can still be prescribed. Bryant also says that the physician’s assistants are now covered under the licenses of the Clinic’s other doctors. The clinic is planning to fill the Medical Director slot, and physicians are being contacted regarding practicing at the clinic.
With regard to the dismissal of Dr. Loeb, Bryant says that contract renewal is a personnel matter, and that he is not able to discuss the circumstances with the public, but he urges the community not to rush to judgement. The decision whether or not to renew a contract is made by the Executive Director of the Sunshine Community Health Center, and the Board of Directors is not generally involved. Bryant says that this case had enough community impact that the Board chose to discuss the decision not to renew Dr. Loeb’s contract in a closed executive session, after which it voted unanimously to support Bryant’s decision. He says that the discussion was held in executive session in order to protect the privacy of Dr. Loeb.
Bryant was unable to say whether the Board of Directors was likely to grant the request for a special meeting. The next regularly scheduled meeting of the Sunshine Community Health Center board is scheduled for Tuesday, July 30th.